Spaghetti sauce and turkey meatballs

A lighter version of classic American comfort food. Adapted from The original recipe calls for beef meatballs and twice the cooking time. If you start a pot of water for cooking spaghetti at the beginning, you can have this hearty, healthy meal on the table in an hour.

Tomato sauce ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled or diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste (optional)

Meatball ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or grana padano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg


  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven. Saute onions until soft.
  2. Add canned tomatoes, breaking up whole tomatoes with a spoon.
  3. Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil (if using) and bay leaf. Cover and reduce to simmer 20-30 minutes while you make the meatballs.
  4. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and egg. Mix well.
  5. When tomatoes are soft and breaking down, add tomato paste and crushed red pepper, if using. Depending on how much the tomato sauce has cooked down, you may need to add water so the sauce is not too thick (1/2 cup to 1 cup). The sauce will continue to cook with the meatballs, so add enough water so that the sauce is slightly runnier than you want it at the end.
  6. Form meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and place carefully in sauce, leaving a bit of room in between meatballs. Should make approximately 18 meatballs. Cover pot and simmer for another 30 minutes, turning once.
  7. When meatballs are ready, taste the sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary. Feel free to add a bit more water if sauce is too thick.
  8. Serve with spaghetti cooked al dente and additional grated Parmesan.

Makes enough sauce for two pounds of dried spaghetti. Serves 6-8.


  • For cooking pasta, use at least a gallon of water per pound of pasta. It takes an 8-quart stockpot to cook two pounds of pasta at the same time. Use two pots if necessary to avoid spaghetti sticking during cooking.

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